Monday, July 18, 2011

Self-Promotion Freaks Me Out

Today (and Friday, too, really) Nathan Bransford has been talking about self-promotion, and I found this particularly interesting because it's one of those new things I have to honestly think about now that my book deal news is out there on the internets.

I know it might sound strange, having a blog and all, but I never thought of all this as self-promotion. I started the blog for accountability purposes, and then it became a great way to connect with other writers, and I got so caught up with being part of this community and giving to this community that it really slipped my mind that if I sold a book I'd actually have to, like, SELL that book. (Does that even make sense? I hope so...)

The whole self-promotion realization hit about a week or two after the offer, when it seemed pretty clear that it was, indeed, not a joke that my book would be published. At that point I had this huge, terrifying revelation:

"Holy. Crap. How am I supposed to keep people interested in me and my book for the two years before it debuts without being completely and utterly obnoxious? AND, worse, how am I supposed to go out there to conferences or bookstores or signings and tell people to buy my book? How freaking presumptuous is THAT?"

I am a horrible salesperson. I've never been good at it. I always think, "If someone wants to buy something, they'll buy it. Leave them alone!" In fact, most sales tactics make me NOT want to buy something. I'm stubborn like that.

But the fact of the matter is, Nathan is right. Self-promotion sucks, and we have to do it anyway. Because while it's true that people will buy what they want to buy, they can't buy something they'd like if they don't know about it. I think that might even be where the line is drawn between tolerable self-promotion and annoying self-promotion—information vs. flagrant "I am awesome buy my book!" I think it is possible to be visible without being bothersome, and I think people respond to that.

Now, how do you do that? Uh, I'll get back to you if I ever figure it out.

Of all the potentially scary things about becoming a published author, this is number one for me right now, and it'll probably be like that for quite a long time. It feels so...out of my comfort zone. I just hope I can find that balance between getting the information to those who want it and becoming an annoyance.


  1. Hey! I'm having the same revelations right now, went to write a blog post about my publishing news and then stopped, literally blanking about how to explain this. It's different when it's someone else's book I'm talking about, but my book, um, yeah I have trouble with it too!

  2. I'll promote for you! Why self-promote when you can send minions to do it? ;) You just keep being awesome. The rest will follow I assure you.

  3. Ugh. I know the feeling. Kinda. I don't have any books to push, but every once in a while I'll get the panicky what the heck am I doing I'm so obnoxious feeling. I drink wine and take naps. And I try to remember that if people were drawn to me when I was a nobody, they'll still be drawn to me when I'm less of a nobody.

    In other words, you'll be fine because you're great! And not only that, you've become a valuable part of the writing community. So there. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

  4. Well, judging by your followers and blog comments, I'd say we (your potential book buyers) find you interesting and unique already. Having a book coming out in two years is only a plus to that. I'd say just keep being yourself!

  5. Well, I'm one person you don't have to promote anything to. I've already added Transparent to my TBR list.

    From the number of follower you already have, it seems like you already know how to promote yourself :-)

    Congratulations and good luck with the remaining road to publication.

  6. Just keep being yourself, you're a natural!

  7. I feel ya girl. But you have a great supporting cast and it really is a group effort.

  8. Unless you start streaking through Times Square wearing nothing but a sandwich board (with you book cover on it, of course) and a smile while carrying a bullhorn to announce your Amazon link I don't think you'll have to worry about coming across as flagrant. You're a consistently decent/kind person, and I doubt even having to promote yourself will alter that perception.

  9. I agree with the others. You've done a great job building your blog by being yourself, and you have to keep that approach as you self promote. Do what feels natural and show your personality, and you'll do fine:)

  10. The idea of marketing has always scared me, so I feel you pain. At least mine is imaginary, while yours is the real thing. Some authors are really "in your face" when it comes to pushing their books. I hate it like I hate any kind of pushy sales. But there are people who are more subtle. I think you're one of those. We love reading your blog, so why wouldn't we naturally be interested in your book. Just keep being you, and we're not going to be bored.

  11. First, its wonderful that you even have to worry about promoting your book. So Congrats!

    I think its best to focus on promoting yourself, and your story, not so much the book itself, if that makes sense. I'm by no means an expert on the subject. (I just started my blog a few days ago... and I only have a first draft of a manuscript). But if we focus on getting people to like us and the awesome story we have created, the physical buying of the book will come with it.

    So not, "Buy my book". More, "You know me (and we think you're a cool person), and here is a great story that you might want to check out."

    I just started following your blog a few days ago, and just by the posts, and the comments you receive, I'm sold on reading your book! :)

    I say, just keep doing what you're doing.

  12. So I mentioned this on Nathan's post, too, but I thought I'd bring it up here too.

    In the book "The Greatest Salesman in the World," it points out that, as a salesman, you're providing a valuable service to help people find what they need. So you get to know people, find out what they need, and find out how you (or your book, in this case) can deliver it.

    I LOVE that approach to self-promotion. It can be a service, rather than a necessary evil.

  13. Having been reading your blog for over a year, I can safely say, you're pretty much awesome. Bring that awesomeness to any conference you're at, and people will probably be happy to buy your book without any pushing. And, like Enna said, there's always the devoted minions who can take care of the pushing for you.

  14. I know it might sound strange, having a blog and all, but I never thought of all this as self-promotion. I started the blog for accountability purposes, and then it became a great way to connect with other writers, and I got so caught up with being part of this community and giving to this community that it really slipped my mind that if I sold a book I'd actually have to, like, SELL that book. (Does that even make sense? I hope so...)

    I can so totally see this being me if I sell one of my novels. My personal journal is online only because I can't seem to keep one on paper. My LJ was started, as you said, as a way to track my writing and connect with others, especially as I became more home bound. I have an author site and I already post bits of news and about shorts that get sold, but I can see all that becoming much more...necessary and bigger if a book gets sold. And the last thing I want is to be pushy. Let me know what you figure out. lol

  15. I think the simplest way to get your head around this whole promotion malarkey is to put yourself in the shoes of the potential buyers: what would you respond to? The hard sell doesn’t work. None of us really mind a sales assistant sidling up to us and asking if they can help but when, after we’ve said that we’re just looking, they hang about and try and push things on us then all they’re likely to do is push us out the door. And it’s the same online. There are blogs I’ve stopped reading because I got fed up with them going on about their upcoming books. Yes, by all means tell us about your book, slip little reminders in here and there, have a discreet ad in the sidebar but don’t go on at me, please. Some people, as you say, are never going to buy your book. Since I’m not a young adult by any stretch of the imagination – I’m a 52-year-old Scotsman whose literary heroes are Beckett and Larkin – the odds are I will never buy your book. I have no idea how I even stumbled across your blog but something about it caught my attention. Since you’re not a young adult there’s more of a chance that you might buy one of my books but if we spend all our time online viewing everyone is a potential customer we’ll drive ourselves batty.

    Online marketing is not like marketing in the real world. That’s the one thing I have learned. Almost everyone who has bought my books online is someone I have some kind of relationship with however tenuous. I used to manage a dry cleaners many years ago. We also did film processing as a sideline. One customer once said to me, “You know why I come to you to get my photos developed and not the place round the corner?” I said, I didn’t. “Because you talk to me. The other place is all about the business. The processing is the same. The price is much the same. But here you have time for me and there’s less and less of that these days.” And he’s right. But online we get to have wee ‘conversations’ like this. What I’m selling is me. I’m trying to convince people that I’m a decent chap so that they’ll think, You know, that Jim Murdoch’s a decent chap. I think I’ll go over and have a look at his website and when they’re there they see I have books for sale and, well, you know where I’m going with this.

    I read blogs about marketing online all the time and they basically all say the same thing: be a decent, helpful person, make friends and stop trying to sell stuff every chance you get. There are lots of things you can do to get people to have a look at your blog – it’s no different than us saying, “Oh, there’s a new shop open over there, let’s have a shuftie.” That is the easy bit. The trick is to make that place somewhere they want to come back to and maybe later they’ll actually think about shopping. You have to be in it for the long term. You have a book coming out. Good. Well done. And you want to build up reader expectation but you can’t keep people hanging on too long or their interest will cool. You have to have other interesting stuff to talk about. A bookshop wouldn’t last too long if all it had was one book to sell. And that’s you. Puts it into perspective, doesn’t it?

  16. I hate self-promotion too, if it's all, "me me me, look how incredible I am, my book is great, blah blah blah."

    But. This blog, and promoting your book, is far more than that. Readers have a relationship with YOU - we know we love your writing and we know we love your approach to the craft. We love your commitment to being a positive, supportive part of the writing community. That is why people follow your blog. You really, truly care about the story, and your respect for the reader means that you care about him or her having the absolute best experience of it possible.

    THAT's the self-promotion you're doing. THAT's what will shine through as you tell anyone and everyone about the stories you have to share in the coming years.

  17. This new thing where authors need to be their own number one promoters seems to be causing a huge stir... with the authors who have to do the promoting, and the people who think it's shameless. I wonder if a third party will step up and be like, hey, authorr! I'm an awesome promoter... lemme take that podium for you.
    Authors: Win
    Third-Party Promoter: Win
    Consumers: Win (Cuz they don't hate advertising as much when it comes from a third party.)

    There's gotta be a way for that to work. I mean, I realize the the publishers quit doing it because marketing is expensive, but, ionno. You don't need thousands of dollars of marketing to get the word out.. do you?

    Or maybe... you could set up a "third party" promotional... thing...yourself. Like, it's run by you, but you don't actually SAY it's run by you. People might subconsciously feel less critical of what your doing and focus on the information.
    Or just make up a few posters with your book on them and paste them to the telephone poles in major cities. *Shrug* It worked for Willie Wonka.

  18. Just keep doing what you're doing! I plan to pre-order your book the second I can because I like you, I've read blurbs of your writing here and I liked it. You are doing all the right things! You are going to do awesome!

  19. You've got such a good circle of published writer friends. Maybe they can promote for you? LOL.

  20. I know the pain! It isn't so hard to talk about your writing when the book isn't published, but once it is and you're trying to encourage people to spend money for it, it gets difficult. I even find it embarrassing when people simply congratulate me on being published. It's hard to essentially say, "Thanks! And while you're at it, how about picking up a copy...?" But when it boils down to it, I'd rather be published than not, so I can't complain too much!

  21. Amen. Self-promotion makes me itchy. Either side of self-promotion. I love the theory of "write the best book you can and let it sell itself" - but then... you know. You still have to do it.

  22. That's exactly why I started blogging too and then I got caught up in the community. I think that same community will help you promote your book with pleasure!

  23. You guys are so far ahead of me in your worries and everything else, but I love being able to start being a part of these blogs. I am barely getting mine going and that in itself is scary for me! You can definitely get yourself out there without being obnoxious. I have been doing social media for the past year for the current Mrs. Utah and I learned a lot. On FB you need to keep it 80% personal, and 20% business. Twitter you can do whatever you want how ever much you want. Just play the humility card. I can already tell how awesome you are. They'll catch that too. :)

  24. You know, I think the best way you can promote your book is through your honesty. You just keep telling your story, through your POV, your honest hopes and fears, and I think it will all work itself out. Honesty is compelling, and you do it very well.

  25. Do what comes naturally. You'll be excited about your book and you'll want to share the news about its release. The people who follow your blog already like your writing and will be inclined to read it if they know when it's available. It will not need to be a "hard sell."

  26. The best way to sell something is to see the value in it yourself. One of my first jobs was fine fragrance sales in a fancy department store. I sucked at it, and part of the reason was that I thought paying $45 for a bottle of overdone trendy smell was a rip off. I always thought I was a bad sales person.
    Then I started selling books, which I've always loved. I've always been able to justify spending money on a book, and now I can sell left and right, with a smile on my face.
    And remember when you started writing your book? When people would tell you, "just write what you love. If you love it, someone else will love it too." This book is for THEM.
    You should be happy to sell this book, because these are your people, this is your audience. They have not read this story yet, and here you are, writing it for them! They will be standing in line, pens in hand waiting for your signature, and a picture with the author.
    Shine shine shine and enjoy every moment.
    Believe in your story. It has VALUE.
    If not, why did you write it?

  27. I swear I could have written these lines myself.

    Natalie: "I am a horrible salesperson. I've never been good at it. I always think, "If someone wants to buy something, they'll buy it. Leave them alone!" In fact, most sales tactics make me NOT want to buy something. I'm stubborn like that."